Feeds

O2 flogs logs of mobe locations to anyone with a wallet

This anonymised guy lives here, works there ...

High performance access to file storage

Telefonica, the owner of the O2 brand, has set up a new division to exploit its massive heap of customer data. This means selling punters' movement patterns and the number of people ambling through a particular spot to anyone with the cash.

Telefónica Dynamic Insights will sift through the data to see what's worth selling, while market research biz Gfk will hawk the information. The first product, Smart Steps, is fully anonymised, just selling the number of people walking past a particular location, but add information about where they came from and the bundle becomes quite valuable.

Telefonica emphasises the power of big data for social good, suggesting the Smart Steps could be used "to help town councils measure how many more people visit their high street after the introduction of free car parking, farmers markets, or late night shopping", but one has to wonder how many local councils will stump up the money.

Not that it should be expensive, once the analysis tools are in place it's just a matter of crunching the numbers. Telefonica, in common with all European mobile operators, is required to store two years' worth of location data for every customer in case the police take an interest, so the information is all cluttering up the place regardless.

Neither is Telefonica alone in selling location data: Vodafone, for example, provides tracking information to TomTom for its real-time traffic information, and other operators have similar deals though they're not always so blatant about it.

It's always been strange to see demonstrators and police producing wildly divergent numbers for those attending a protest, while the network operators have long been sitting on surprisingly accurate figures. Having those statistics on the open market will surely enable one side, or the other, to prove its case.

Mass analysis of this type has few privacy implications, but there's an ever-present temptation to inspect closer which is a concern. Having a visible department selling the data should increase transparency and let us see what's being sold, for as long as we keep watching. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
A black box for your SUITCASE: Now your lost luggage can phone home – quite literally
Breakfast in London, lunch in NYC, and your clothes in Peru
Broadband Secretary of SHEEP sensationally quits Cabinet
Maria Miller finally resigns over expenses row
Skype pimps pro-level broadcast service
Playing Cat and Mouse with the media
Beat it, freetards! Dyn to shut down no-cost dynamic DNS next month
... but don't worry, charter members, you're still in 'for life'
Like Google, Comcast might roll its own mobile voice network
Says anything's possible if regulators approve merger with Time Warner
EE dismisses DATA-BURNING glitch with Orange Mail app
Bug quietly slurps PAYG credit - yet EE denies it exists
Turnbull leaves Australia's broadband blackspots in the dark
New Statement of Expectations to NBN Co offers get-out clauses for blackspot builds
Facebook claims 100 MEEELLION active users in India
Who needs China when you've got the next billion in your sights?
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.